Parliamentary question over proposed County Hall move

A question has been tabled by a member of House of Lords to the Government over the proposed move of Northumberland County Council’s headquarters from Morpeth to Ashington.

The questions comes as the political row over the likely cost of, and affect on, rural areas, intensifies.

Lord Vinson yesterday asked the Government whether it had made, or intends to make, representations to the council about its plans to relocate, and in particular the impact of the move on residents of the remote urban and rural areas of the county, and if so on what terms.

Coun Anthony Murray, who represents Wooler, said he was grateful to Lord Vinson for raising the issue.

“Like myself and others, Lord Vinson is fearful that the cost it will incur and the increased isolation from the centre of power, which will be experienced by the rural communities, is detrimental to democracy in our county. The arguments made for relocation are sketchy and in some instances untrue, and I ask everyone who believes in a fair deal for the whole of Northumberland to lobby wherever they can to reverse an issue which has been imposed on us by councillors who fail to understand the needs of the whole county.”

The authority’s Labour Administration estimates the cost of the proposed move to be £20million, while the Conservative opposition maintains that the true cost will be closer to £40m. It has also accused the administration of displaying bias to its heartlands in Blyth and Ashington to the detriment of the rest of the county. In correspondence to the council, Morpeth member David Bawn said: “The Conservative group maintains that the proposed relocation of County Hall will cost the figure of £40million. I refer you to the report to the Policy Board on October 7, 2014. It is quite clear that the total cost of building and operating the new County Hall building will be £41,959,004 over a 25-year period and that figure makes no allowance for the inevitable overspend and any interest which will be payable on the build cost of the new building.”

An answer from the Government to Lord Vinson’s question is expected within ten days.